Saturday, June 06, 2015


The first part of this post is in the nature of a Guest Post by my husband, aka "anyjazz", after which I've added a few lines myself.

By "anyjazz"
Prompted by the post:
The Good and Not So Old Days,
from Thursday, May 28, 2015 -
At the risk of sounding like a rabid conspiracy theorist, here are some thoughts on the digital era.

Unless one of our current minimum-wage PhDs invents a completely tamper-proof, loss proof digital system, humanity is doomed to lose a substantial segment of subtleties in its history. The big facts will remain in memory but the detail found in photographic documentation will be gone. Forever.

A few years ago my daughter boasted videos and photographs of a great grandson’s beginnings. She documented his first steps, words and other childhood events. All on her phone. The data could not be transferred to anything, another phone, a computer, a “cloud” or a disk. The history is lost.

How do we examine some history of say, the 1920’s? We read about it and look at the plethora of pictures and cinema from that era, printed and reprinted in books. We can look at that old, black-page photograph album from the closet shelf that great grandma put together with US in mind! That decade was nearly a hundred years ago. What will be left of the current era a hundred years from now?

Will there be “clouds” of photographs and text available conveniently for perusal and education? Or are we doomed to become more and more uninformed about the reality we live in?

Twilight is right. One big bang and it’s all gone. Or perhaps “not available” to an inquiring mind. History might be reduced to oral stories from memory, passed down in limited quantities to new memories; New memories that do not have the depth and color of their predecessors, nor their passion.

What was the government’s big problem with the Vietnam disaster? It was on television, step by step, mistake by mistake. People saw it. People didn’t want any more of it. The lucrative war machine ground to a halt for a while. That’s not going to happen again. No more satellite transmissions of digital television from on the scene.

If George Orwell had known of this digital development, he would have said “Aha! See! I told you so.” Keep the public uninformed of current events. Keep historical events dim so that they can be re-written at any time. You can’t say things are better or worse today than they were yesterday, because you don’t accurately remember yesterday. The corporate governments won’t want you making those comparisons anyway.

And after all, deleting data files is much safer and tidier than burning books.

Even without dire calamity removing the internet from our lives, there are still problems associated with our digital way of life. An interesting article explains:
Google boss warns of 'forgotten century' with email and photos at risk...Digital material including key historical documents could be lost forever because programs to view them will become defunct, says Vint Cerf.

The warning highlights an irony at the heart of modern technology, where music, photos, letters and other documents are digitised in the hope of ensuring their long-term survival. But while researchers are making progress in storing digital files for centuries, the programs and hardware needed to make sense of the files are continually falling out of use.

“We are nonchalantly throwing all of our data into what could become an information black hole without realising it. We digitise things because we think we will preserve them, but what we don’t understand is that unless we take other steps, those digital versions may not be any better, and may even be worse, than the artefacts that we digitised,” Cerf told the Guardian. “If there are photos you really care about, print them out.”

It's good to have precious photographs and documents available in both paper and digital form - "proper" photos and papers can be lost for ever too - as I know very well due to having lost all of my own to fire in 1996. Fortunately my mother's collection provided some replacements, but the majority remain lost forever.

 At Shutterfly
One method of saving photographs the "paper-way", while still taking advantage of our digital world, is to make up a "photo book" with the help of one of the several companies offering this service: Walgreens, Shutterfly etc. Here's a comparison and review of the ten currently offering this service. We haven't yet used this service, but intend to do so.


Sonny G said...

I need to make use of those photo books also. Thanks for the reminder of the possibilities
AJ and Annie.

mike said...

I agree that we seem to be in a more perilous position now than prior, but retention of documentation has been an historic endeavor. History is written by the victorious, as is said, and victors expunge refutable evidence. Destruction of historic sculptures and architecture has been, and is the name of the game...the burning of the library at Alexandria, or the destruction by ISIS currently, as just two examples of the many. The Vatican's Inquisition was a centuries' old extortion of truth by destruction of manuscripts. Prior to the printing press and photography, sparse, hand written material on rocks, walls, and papyrus or linen (readable by few) and oil paintings were the keepers of our past. Oration and human memories have been the most reliable means of transmission over the eons.

Newspapers, magazines, and books are still published, perhaps not for long, but hardcopies of our current existence are available. Personal, family histories may have met their match with our digital storage, but most digital data keepers have experienced hard-drive failures and have re-evaluated proper storage techniques.

Anyjazz mentions cell phone photography and the inability to transfer the images. I don't have a cell phone, but most individuals I've spoken with have smart phones and email their images and videos to themselves or others, or have "synchronization" with their computers to transfer the data.

Maintenance of our historic and contemporary documentation, whether on rocks, canvas, or electrons, is a challenge. History repeats itself anyway and, if there is reincarnation, so do we...LOL.

Twilight said...

Sonny ~ Yes - I like the looks of the photo books. Getting down to sorting out where all the pics are in our files will be the next trick!

mike (again) said...

P.S. - Preservation of our past & present by hardcopy appears to be a human-only activity. Nature doesn't seem to care about capturing how cute our babies' faces are, first or any following birthdays, or family gatherings captured on film or digitally. Most of us don't keep the family photographs beyond a generation or two anyway (witnessed by anyjazz' collection of miscellaneous photos obtained from thrift stores). Genetics is nature's method of preservation toward the future. New research into adverse events suggests that our genes can be programmed to insert new memories:

"'Memories' pass between generations"

Twilight said...

mike ~ Thanks for your, always valued, observations on this.

The cellphone involved in husband's younger daughter's experience of losing her photos was, I think, an early type of cellphone, not one of the better equipped smartphone types now easily available. But even for pics transferred to computer there will be problems in 10, 20 years or so down the line, because certain (perhaps all) operating systems will be extinct, and people themselves, don't forget, grow old and less able to deal with the galloping speed of "progress".

It's up to each of us to save what we personally hold precious in as many ways as are available.

The other, less personal, point anyjazz was making is even more important I think - the one in his last two paragraphs - how much easier it would/will be for any government, national or world, to limit access or destroy completely that which could go against their aims. There's nothing we can do about this, not in any meaningful way, but it's interesting to watch it unfolding.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ That's an interesting link -thanks.
I like this Prof Marcus Pembrey, from University College London, said the findings were "highly relevant to phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders" and provided "compelling evidence" that a form of memory could be passed between generations.
Example: I mentioned in a response to Bob - (Thursday's post, I think) that I think I inherited a dislike/morbid fear of doctors and all medical stuff from my mother and her mother - I've struggled to overcome most of it, but shadows remain. Mum and Grandma both had good reason to fear, I guess. My mother almost died when she had me; her mother gave birth to twins, my mother was one, the other twin (another Ann) died soon after birth. Grandmother was left with physical problems for which she resisted treatment until a few weeks before she died, in her 80s.

Anonymous said...

Mugsy says ...

How 'bout dat!

Twilight said...

Anon/Mugsy ~ How 'bout dat indeed! :-) Nice one - thanks!
There's a more detailed piece about the same incident at

Now... time travellin' about 100 years from now, can we imagine someone with a few solar energy cells and a lot of know-how, managing to start up an old computer found in a deep cellar after one of multiple tornadic storms had left it near the surface - and finding some old e-mails, blog posts and photographs....

Anonymous said...

Report one hundred and two.

After many periods of sleep we are now nearing the end of the beginning.
The machine is making a strange whirring noise ...


It says "You've got mail!" :)


Twilight said...

Anon/kidd ~
LOL!! :-)
(Next minute a jumble of catchpa pictures of sushi, ice cream, steak and bread appeared. "That must be what they used to eat instead of this Soylent stuff - interesting!")

Anonymous said...

Yesterday I was in local junk store examining some old B&W photos thrown in a hatbox: always a melancholic experience, imagining all those lives of no interest to anyone anymore, and somewhat odd considering this is a small closeknit community (Empire Loyalist vintage).
I too use an old(!) flip-phone and no one seems to be able to help me transfer the photos I have on it to any other device.
Yes, I remember coming home from work and watching the 'kill ratios' for the day from Vietnam on the suppertime news; by the time of the Gulf War, news coverage was totally controlled.
In this country our current governing party continues to wage a war of disinformation all too reminiscent of Bradbury's 'Fahrenheit 451'. Today I heard a fellow citizen say we have the greatest Prime Minister we have ever had; now read this and weep:

Twilight said...

Sabina ~ Old junk stores are some of our favourite places to explore - and husband always heads straight for any boxes or drawers filled with old photographs, to find any "specials" add to his already vast collection. :-) It's sad that they've been abandoned. Husband has had several occasions where relatives have recognised a photograph on his website and contacted him - then recovered a lost/previously unknown treasure.

Ray Bradbury's imagination is seeming better categorised as prophecy these days!

Bob said...

I was not aware of this show - my loss. The show is ongoing on the The Learning Channel.

It shows the importance of keeping hard copy records of importance to us as we go along to share or inform those who come behind us.

who do you think you are Helen Hunt

How she feels about saving a record for her daughter told in the first three minutes or so. 00:42:36

Who Do You Think You Are Reba McEntire

Preserved records from the 1600s. 00:42:36

"During the 6th season finale, TLC revealed that season 7 will start in Summer 2015."

Episode Airdate Featured celebrity Locations visited

Twilight said...

Bob ~ I've enjoyed several episodes of "Who do You Think you Are" - once we discovered it we made a point of watching, but did miss quite a bit.

Thanks for adding this information - it's very relevant to the topic, and the TV show is a nice example of how both hard copy records, in tandem with with computer programs and technology can work together to unearth family history. :-)